It’s that time of year again – flu season is upon us! As a mom, keeping your kids healthy can feel like an endless battle against runny noses, coughs, fevers and more. The costs of medications, doctor visits and missed work can really add up. But there are many frugal ways to boost your family’s immune systems and avoid getting sick in the first place. With a little planning and creativity, you can fight flu season without breaking the bank. Here are 10 affordable tips to keep your kids healthy this winter.
1. Focus on Nutrition
A nutrient-rich diet is the foundation of good health. Make sure your family eats plenty of immune boosting foods like citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, yogurt and spinach. Try serving an orange at breakfast, squeezing lemon in water or getting creative with smoothies. Nutrient deficiencies can weaken the immune system, so offer a multivitamin if your pediatrician recommends it. Staying hydrated is also key, so keep water bottles on hand.
2. Get Good Sleep
Adequate sleep is vital for proper immune function. Establish an earlier bedtime for the winter months, limiting screen time before bed. Make bedrooms cooler and darker for better sleep. Teens need 8-10 hours per night and school-age kids need 9-12 hours. Toddlers and preschoolers need even more. Sticking to a routine helps kids wind down and drift off easier.
3. Wash Hands Frequently
Hand washing is the number one way to prevent spread of germs. Have kids wash hands as soon as they get home from school and before meals. Use plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds of scrubbing. Keep hand sanitizer by doors and in bags for on-the-go use when sinks aren’t available. Remind kids not to touch eyes, nose or mouth unless hands are clean.
4. Disinfect Surfaces
Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours. Disinfect doorknobs, light switches, remote controls and electronics frequently. Use a mix of 4 tablespoons bleach to 1 quart of water. For a greener option, try diluted vinegar or tea tree oil. Disinfect lunch bags and backpacks weekly.
5. Humidify Air
Cold dry air can dry out nasal passages, making you prone to infection. Run a cool mist humidifier in bedrooms to keep air moist. Clean humidifiers often to avoid spreading mold and bacteria. Alternatively, hang damp towels in rooms or place bowls of water on radiators. This boosts moisture naturally.
6. Avoid Touching Face
Remind kids to keep their hands away from eyes, nose and mouth unless freshly washed. Viruses easily enter the body through the mucous membranes. When coughing or sneezing, kids should cover with elbow or tissue, not hands. Breaking this face-touching habit can stop germs in their tracks.
7. Stay Home When Sick
Don’t send kids to school if they are feverish, coughing continuously or have green/yellow mucus. Rest and fluids help kids heal faster so they can get back to school sooner. Call the pediatrician if symptoms don’t improve after a few days. Keeping contagious kids home prevents the spread of illness in the classroom.
8. Try Natural Remedies
For congestion and coughs, try elevating kids’ heads while sleeping, using humidifiers or taking warm baths. Saline nose spray can provide relief and hydrate nasal passages. Honey with lemon or ginger tea can soothe sore throats. Practice breathing steam from a bowl of hot water. And don’t forget the chicken soup – warm broth can thin mucus.
9. Stick to a Routine
Keep bedtimes, mealtimes and school schedules consistent despite the season. This maintains structure and normalcy. Avoid letting kids stay up late or sleep in on weekends. Sticking to routines can prevent exhaustion and burnout that dampen immunity. Even scheduling in daily downtime like reading, puzzles or crafts provides stability kids need.
10. Get Some Fresh Air
Bundling up and getting kids outside for 20-30 minutes daily provides mood-boosting, immune-enhancing benefits of vitamin D and exercise. Just avoiding stagnant indoor air can be beneficial. Go on after-school walks, get creative with driveway chalk games, build snowmen or go sledding. This downtime outdoors is a refreshing break from more TV time.
With preparation and diligence, moms can keep kids healthy this flu season without going broke. Focus on nutrition, hygiene, lifestyle, home cleaning and sensible medicine use. Teach kids to cough/sneeze in elbows, wash hands properly and avoid touching faces. Stick to routines, maximize sleep and keep up with disinfecting. With these frugal tips, you can avoid colds and keep kids happy and healthy all winter long. Rest assured knowing you have a smart plan to fight flu season without breaking the bank.